The Walk, starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt, tells the story of French high-wire artist Philippe Petit, who in 1974 broke into New York's World Trade Center, strung a tightrope between the Twin Towers, and walked across them for an astounding 45 minutes. It was an incredible and daring feat, and the movie is getting a lot of attention for a couple of different reasons. For one, its use of 3D effects is considered to be perhaps the most-realistic utilization of the technology ever, to the point where it's even making some people vomit in the theater. And secondly because the movie is perhaps the most significant depiction of the Twin Towers in a film since their destruction on September 11, 2001. The towers are as much the stars of the movie as Gordon-Levitt is, and the movie goes a long way toward reestablishing the buildings as symbols of hope as opposed to ones of terror. But the depiction of the Twin Towers in The Walk isn't the first post-9/11 film to take on the iconic buildings.
The Twin Towers have been shown in various movies over the last 14 years for a number of reasons. They're often used to establish a film as being set in the past. Sometimes they're used in movies directly about 9/11. And once in a while, their appearance depicts an alternate universe where they were never destroyed. Here are seven of the more prominent times the World Trade Center has shown up in movies since 9/11.
World Trade Center (2006)
This movie, which stars Nicholas Cage as a police officer on 9/11, is about the destruction of the towers and focuses on the rescue workers. The film features many shots of the towers, often being destroyed, and is one of the more emotional entries on this list.
United 93 (2006)
Another film dealing directly with the tragedy of that day, the focus of this film is on the passengers of United Airlines Flight 93, who heard about the destruction of the Twin Towers and sacrificed themselves to overtake their plane's hijackers and crash it in rural Pennsylvania. Although the World Trade Center is not the focus, the towers are seen sporadically and help set the tone.
The superhero film takes place both in the past and in an alternate universe, and the towers can be seen in a number of shots. They're never the focus, but they help establish the New York these characters inhabit.
Remember Me (2010)
This coming-of-age drama was heavily criticized for exploiting the tragedy of 9/11, thanks to its twist ending that sees Robert Pattinson's character killed in the World Trade Center attack.
Rent, based on the Broadway musical of the same name, takes place at a very specific time in New York City between 1989 and 1990. The World Trade Center is used to effectively transport the viewer back to that time, and not to invoke any feelings of tragedy or sadness (though they still might).
Another movie that takes place in the past, Miracle is about the 1980 U.S. Olympic men's ice hockey team, which pulled off a miracle upset by defeating the Soviets. IMDb credits the film as being the first to digitally recreate the towers after their destruction, but that may not be entirely accurate...
It's a Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie (2002)
Probably the strangest member of this list, this Muppet holiday special was a riff on the classic film, It's a Wonderful Life. In it, Kermit is shown what life would be like had he never been born. One scene places him in Miss Piggy's apartment, where she lives alone with several cats and has a view of the World Trade Center. Since the movie came out more than a year after 9/11, some fans have theorized that the implication is that Kermit was the mastermind behind the 9/11 attacks since they exist in a world where he doesn't.
The more time that passes since 9/11, the more the World Trade Center seems to show up in films. The Twin Towers may be gone, but they'll always be with us, and movies can go a long way toward making sure we never forget.
Images: Tri-Star Pictures; Paramount Pictures; Universal Pictures; Warner Bros. Pictures; Buena Vista Pictures; Columbia Pictures; Metro-Goldwyn-Meyer/Walt Disney Pictures